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Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2008 Oct;211(5-6):658-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2008.03.002. Epub 2008 May 27.

The German Multicentre Study on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

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Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Berlin, Germany.


In this multicentre study on multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) 291 consecutive environmental medicine (EM) outpatients were examined in several environmental medicine outpatient centres/units throughout Germany in 2000/2003. Of the EM outpatients, 89 were male (30.6%) and 202 were female (69.4%), aged 22-80 (mean 48 years, S.D.=12 years). The sample was representative for university-based environmental outpatient departments and represented a cross-sectional study design with an integrated clinical-based case-control comparison (MCS vs. non-MCS). Three classifications of MCS were used: self-reported MCS (sMCS), clinically diagnosed MCS (cMCS), and formalised computer-assisted MCS with two variants (f1MCS, f2MCS). Data were collected by means of an environmental medicine questionnaire, psychosocial questionnaires, the German version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI), and a medical baseline documentation, as well as special examinations in partial projects on olfaction and genetic susceptibility markers. The hypothesis guided evaluation of the project showed that the patients' heterogenic health complaints did not indicate a characteristic set of symptoms for MCS. No systematic connection could be observed between complaints and the triggers implicated, nor was there any evidence for a genetic predisposition, or obvious disturbances of the olfactory system. The standardised psychiatric diagnostics applying CIDI demonstrated that the EM patients in general and the subgroup with MCS in particular suffered more often from mental disorders compared to an age and gender matched sample of the general population and that in most patients these disorders commenced many years before environment-related health complaints. Our results do not support the assumption of a toxicogenic-somatic basis of the MCS phenomenon. In contrast, numerous indicators for the relevance of behavioural accentuations, psychic alterations or psychosomatic impairments were found in the group of EM-outpatients with subjective "environmental illness".

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